"The Nation's Leading Bi-Regional Knitting Blog" --Ann's husband • "Kay sure is wasting a lot of time on this" --Kay's husband

March 30, 2009

Stop! In the Name of Love


Dear Ann,

Why hello there, Ms. Bespoke Couture Knittin', Ms. Oh That Lil' Ol' Reverse Stockinette Facing Under The Collar?--That's a Dressmaker Detail To Hide Any Unsightliness, Ms. I Am Concerned About Cables Meeting Under the Arms. We humble dishrag-crankers salute you. We're not worthy! We don't know from cables--we don't know from underarms, for that matter. We stick to our square shapes, our cheap cotton and our clangy color combos. We're just FINE, OK? Not bitter or nothing.

Hate to interrupt all that shining hair shimmering on the beach, rilly, but I have Breaking News and a need for Reader Advice. Our lovely young friend Jenny has a lovely young friend Amy. Amy recently learned to knit. Amy is getting married within the year. So, as naturally as day follows night and the swallows return to Capistrano or wherever they return to, Amy is going to KNIT A FRICKIN' LACE OVERSKIRT FOR HER WEDDING DRESS. (Which she is sewing, natch. The girls today and their skillz! So inspiring!)

But Amy is having trouble. And I don't just mean mentally. Amy is searching for the perfect yarn for this project. Ideally it will be light green. Mohair need not apply, for this will be a warm-weather wedding. Please, readers, if you have ideas for Amy, leave a comment! This is a 911 Wedding-Related Knitting Emergency. We need to be there for Amy in her hour of need. Amy is looking for a non-drooping, non-bank-breaking yarn, and I believe she is exploring weights ranging from laceweight to DK.

My contribution to Amy's Process was a cone of laceweight linen (label above--I bought this while snoozing peacefully on Ambien, apparently, as I have no recollection of doing so), which has been haunting my stash for years. I figured that if this works for Amy in every other way except being light green, it can be dyed to match. (Remember back when everything in weddings was dyed to match? Hats, bags, gloves and especially shoes? I remember shoe stores providing custom dyeing as a regular service, to match prom and bridesmaid dresses. But then, I'm old as sin.) Amy is swatching it now, and hoping she doesn't have to knit up the whole cone. Which might take her to her Golden Wedding party.

Send your wedding gown overskirt yarn suggestions in TODAY!


Posted by Kay at 08:15 AM | Comments (76)

March 27, 2009

A Pearl of Great Price


Dear Kay,

Because there's nothing better than frolicking on the chilly beach in your new wool and cotton cardigan . . .


I hadn't picked out buttons yet, so it was buttonless, which for this sweater actually matters. It really wants to be buttoned.



It all fits. The seams were a real odyssey in connecting unmatching cables. I just sat down at a table with the thing and made executive decision after executive decision. The side seams joined well enough, but the armhole cables were all willynilly.


The sleeves haven't fallen off yet, so that's good enough for me.

Here are the buttons (to prove that I didn't punt on the buttons, which is a powerful temptation). I managed to lose my battery charger, so this is an undercover phonecam shot:


It's fun to wear this, though I'm still feeling kind of tender about it and won't, like, cook dinner in it. Yet.

Feeling like I just finished exams. What to do next?



PS A special thank you to my stylist/photographer/life coach Merle Hazard. What that guy can do with a can of Aqua Net . . .

Posted by Ann at 10:27 AM | Comments (74)

March 26, 2009

Vacation Knitting Challenges, and Also Thomas Jefferson

Dear Kay,

While on spring break vacation, we had a lot of time for watching movies. One of the adventures in vacation rentals is poking around the bookshelves to see what the owners left behind for the amusement of their renters. All I can say is that we really need to think hard about becoming James Patterson, Anne Rivers Siddons, or Reader's Digest Condensed Books SO MUCH. There was not a single knitting book in the place. The indignity!

Unfortunately, we got too engrossed in Ken Burns' JAZZ (filmed in real time: six hundred discs in the set), so we didn't get around to watching this video tucked away in the vacation rental movie drawer:


I did, however, fall DEEPLY into John Adams, the HBO miniseries from last year. It really ought to be called Hotties of the American Revolution, because they were all so deliciously COMPLEX, those Founding Fathers. They were all so eaten up by self doubt, so likely to quote Demosthenes, so INKY on the right fingers. Thomas Jefferson, in this production, is SMOKIN. Jumps right off the $2 bill and into your heart. But I realize that everybody has their favorite.


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The Pearl Collar

Now. The Rowan Pearl sweater by Kim Hargreaves came along for the trip, because the finishing was almost done except for one procedure that was giving me a sharp little pain in my left temple, every time I started to work on it.

The interfacing for the collar.

I've never done one of these, have never frankly seen such a thing on a handknit garment or even a handknit potholder, so the prospect of stitching the thing down with any style or elegance filled me with a sort of self-loathing. So many issues to address: how deep to knit the interfacing? Should it be long enough to cover the seams at the base of the collar? Would that be too bulky? Would the thing lay flat? Would it end up weighing too much and flopping like a topheavy flower arrangement? Would the interfacing WANT to be stitched down?

I quickly discovered that the extreme stockinette curliness, the result of a DK yarn worked on size 2 needles, was pure trouble. I steamed the heck out of it with our vacation rental steam iron. (Pioneer spirit at work.) That helped, but there was no way I was going to stitch this thing down without some pins, which I had not brought with me. The barbecue tongs didn't work. Setting a book on it didn't work. So I MacGyvered it into place using the only sharp short pieces of metal I could find:


I had made the radical decision to make the interfacing deeper than specified in the pattern because it was going to bug me forevermore if I'd gone to the trouble of making an interfacing that didn't actually COVER anything. This turned out to be a good decision. There's all kinds of hell hidden up in that interfacing. I may have trapped a child in there.


But it's done. It is definitely heavy, but it does give a little structure to what would otherwise be an unsatisfying flap of stuff up there under your chin. It's very warm, too. Tomorrow I'll show you how it looks on a human.


Posted by Ann at 10:36 AM | Comments (46)

March 25, 2009

Things to Do! Yarn to Select!


Dear Kay,

Everybody in middle Tennessee, listen up. Tonight there's a choice event at the Nashville downtown public library: "An Evening of Literary Comedy and Conversation with Henry Alford and Sandra Tsing Loh." 6 pm TONITE! Free! Likely to be effervescent and delightful, like a Fresca.

Henry writes humor and articles for the NY Times and every glossy magazine you ever saw. He is at all times disarmingly charming. Sandra is a humor writer who appears on NPR. It may well be that she is disarmingly charming as well.

Henry's new book is How to Live: A Search for Wisdom from Old People (While They Are Still on This Earth). He is keeping a blog these days, thank Jebus, here.

The Wabi Sabi Situation as It Pertains to the Birthday Present


Kay, the prospect of knitting the second half of the Belinda Wrap for your birthday fills me with immense . . . immenseness. I haven't picked out a yarn yet, and in fact have been stalling on it because it seems such a momentous decision. What is going to make the blah sing? How juicy do we go? Is neutral the answer? Do you want subtle or exuberant?

I keep thinking about those Handmaiden silks, the delectable Lace Silk. Or the elusive Sundara Silk Lace (Ravelry link), as tricky to get hold of as tickets to a Raconteurs concert.

I considered some silky cashmere combo, but somehow I don't think this should have even a hint of furriness. What do you think?

I'd welcome everybody's suggestions for a yarn to complement the Color 1 of the Habu linen. And Kay, as the Osmonds would say, "I'm Leavin' It All Up to You."


Posted by Ann at 09:42 AM | Comments (23)

March 24, 2009

Eliĉan Naskiĝtagon, Kay! I Mean: Happy Birthday, Kay!


Dear everybody,

Today is Kay's birthday!

She's not the type to send out a reminder postcard, and she continues to reject my suggestion to start a website called www.kaysbirthdayismarch24.com. So please join me in sending her birthday wishes in any language you can think of.

While I was away, my constant companion was the scarf I'm making for Kay's birthday. Technically, this was supposed to be for her birthday last year, but I'm hoping that she won't notice the fact that it's kind of, totally, late.


It's the Belinda Wrap from our book. When you're knitting it on the beach, you really do feel like you're making a fishing net.

The yarn has been waiting in my UltraSentimentalYarn drawer for at least four years: I bought it on the trip when I first met Kay in person. It's from a field trip we made to Habu Textiles. It's a laceweight linen with the romantic name Linen XS-21 20/2 (Ravelry link). It's in Color 1. I haven't ever seen it in Color 2, am pretty sure there is no such thing. It's 311 yards to the ounce, 8.9 ounces in the hank I have (I love Habu's random skein sizes), putting the ball at 2,767 yards or so. About half a mile a MILE AND A HALF (I was thinking FEET not yards!). I wound this stuff for about a week. After a solid week of knitting, the ball looks pretty much the same size to me. It's Incredible Gobstopper yarn. If you're looking for recession-proof knitting material, this is IT.


Now. I have enjoyed making this fishnet. I actually think you could catch some shrimp with this thing. But in my head I had in mind a silky yarn for the second half of this, something sabi to go with the wabi scratchiness of the linen. (Which I hope will soften once I wash and block this.) On the other hand, maybe a Half Belinda--just this long strip of linen--would be enough. I'll let Kay vote on this. After all, it's her birthday!


P.S. That's an Esperanto Happy Birthday up there.

Posted by Ann at 10:23 AM | Comments (160)

March 23, 2009



Dear Kay,

I'm back, after a week of spring break family sun n fun n sunburn down in the Cote du Cou Rouge, the Forgotten Coast, the part of the Florida panhandle where the handle bolts onto the pan. You know--the end of the universe?

Remember that incredible Sugimoto exhibition we saw at the Sackler Gallery in Washington a while back? I spent the whole week staring at the Sugimoto sky. We ran out of cloudy days, which was a shame. We're like the Addams family at the beach, going out when the sun is setting. Twilight in general makes a lot of sense to us pale vampire types.


Sugimoto writes, "Every time I view the sea, I feel a calming sense of security, as if visiting my ancestral home; I embark on a voyage of seeing." Exactly!

I stayed away from the Internet, except for the dreadful day when I peeked and discovered that Natasha Richardson had died. I mean: just the week before, I had watched her lovely, haunting performance in Merchant Ivory's last, very slow movie, The White Countess. She seemed to smile even when she wasn't smiling.

(The screenplay for The White Countess is by Kazuo Ishiguro, that master of the slow.)


I knitted steadily, and will get into all that this week. The cats are following me around the house. There's luggage all over the place. I wonder how you're doing.


Posted by Ann at 10:14 AM | Comments (23)

March 20, 2009

Friday Catchup


Dear Ann,

What fun I had gabbing on the webcam last night about cool stuff I would like to buy on Etsy. The audience "sits" in virtual seats in the virtual auditorium, and they can "clap" and "spin" (which real audiences can't really do that easily). It tickled me to see that at the beginning, people kept moving around in search of a better seat. Like it mattered, you know? The Etsy auditorium is like Radio City: there are no bad seats. The show is on your computer screen.

When I arrived, there was a giant cardboard owl in front of the elevator on the 6th Floor. I considered it an auspicious omen. Julie gave me a tour of the place, which is large, and rakishly industrial to the point of making me feel like an old lady who has become a bit too attached to her wall-to-wall carpeting, if you know what I mean.

The mellow, painterly light of Sunset On Flatbush.

We did not go in this door. I think this is where they keep the radioactive crafts.

I had a fab time. If Etsy ever has an opening for Den Mother, I would like to apply. See a short version of my picks here. Thank you, Etsy fans and friends. (I've got plenty of owls now.)

Weather Report
We had a snow shower this morning.


I made a dishcloth last night going to and from Etsy; finished it up watching the Prez on Leno. Not sure I approve of the POTUS appearing on late night teevee. (Prolly my old lady/carpeting thing acting up again. Dignity! Decorum! What has become of me? What's next? A pocketbook on my wrist, containing rain hat and pack of Clorets?)


I'm handquilting a doll-sized, flag-shaped quilt using some of my sweet little stash of Liberty fabrics. Resisting urge to stick a photo on it. Remember Mason-Dixon Rule Number Whatever: Just because you can, does not mean you should.


Seriously, it's not that hard to resist the urge, because my inspiration is this amazing quilt, which (despite lack of photos stuck on it) won the big prize for British quilts in 2008:


Liberty Jack, by Janey Forgone. Isn't it something? (YouTube about it here.)

Now that I've done a riff on the US flag, I can see that the diagonals are crucial to the Liberty Jack's sense of movement and vibration. (A British fussbudget pal has informed me that it's the Union Flag; it's only a "Jack" when it's flying on a ship. Who knew?)

This is for Carrie's wall. I had intended to fill up her wall by doing a mini-quilt every month, but somehow that hasn't happened. This one was meant for January; I'm hoping to blast through it this weekend, now that the perforations on my left fingers are callusing over nicely.

Happy weekend everybody!


Posted by Kay at 11:49 AM | Comments (34)

March 19, 2009

Tell Me Dear, Are You Lonesome Tonight?


Dear Ann,

Ain't it cool what the Etsy kids can do with the Photoshop machine? Although my woodcut head looks kinda lonesome.

TONIGHT'S THE NIGHT--the night I'm hosting a "virtual shop" over at Etsy labs in Brooklyn. My dishrag-in-progress and I are getting on the subway in 10 minutes or so, and the show starts at 7 p.m.

All the details are here. (Plus free bonus photo of me wearing a full tube of lipstick! (Photo credit: Gale Zucker.) Why put a little on every day, when you can deal with the whole tube at once? )

Note: From what I can gather, nobody has to physically come to Etsy labs in Brooklyn. The show will be in a virtual auditorium. So please, "come" to the "auditorium". (I'm worried about the virtual echoes of an empty virtual auditorium. If a woman in a virtual forest shops alone, can anyone hear her buying anything?)

My co-host will be lovely Miss Julie Schneider, a friend of the blog through our powerful network of crafters in Nashville, Brooklyn, and RedSox Nation. C'mon! Don't worry about the budget--remember, we're JUST LOOKING.


Posted by Kay at 05:24 PM | Comments (7)

March 18, 2009

Out of Whole Cloth


Dear Ann,

Please indulge me in a little glory-basking. I finished the Nani Iro Peonies quilt I started back in October.

It started as a simple whole cloth quilt. I had fallen in love with a piece of screenprinted linen, and I wanted to keep it in view all the time. What better way than to make a little wall quilt out of a yard of it?

I wanted to embellish it a little; almost, I suppose, so that I could say I had done something. I started by putting a little embroidered love onto Naomi Ito's peony motifs. (Valdani perle cotton floss.)

(Oh look! There are remnants of the basting stitches still there. [Runs off to snip basting threads out.])

Embroidery, it turns out, is fun. Don't know why I avoid it so assiduously.

This bit was particularly fun. I had the feeling that I was chatting with Naomi Ito. We were talking about how scribbles could suggest peonies. ("Right on!" said Naomi.)

From embroidery, it was not a big jump to applique.

All this handwork does take time. While I was stitching away, I was thinking about peonies. Before long, I had incorporated a couple of Personal Peony Memories.

Taking coffee cans of peonies to the cemetery with my great aunts Elsie and Carrie...

...in their mint green Corvair. (Never mind that I didn't have mint green embroidery thread; that's a mint-green Corvair.)

A murky photo circa 1915, inkjet-spritzed onto fabric, depicting my grandpa, Carrie, Elsie and baby Alice on my great-grandfather's or great-great-uncle Frank's lap, their mother standing there with her eyes shut, like all mothers in snapshots. Applique being slow also, I had time to think how Joseph has the same blurry intensity when he is playing cards with his sister. (Sisters must be defeated; that hasn't changed in a hundred years, or a thousand.) I had time to marvel that I knew all four of these children well, fifty-some years later. And what a funny stove they had. And wonder who took the picture.

At this point, or probably before this point, I start to worry that I am wrecking Naomi Ito's beautiful fabric. I also start to not care.

Much hand quilting ensued, followed by the usual euphoric rush of attaching the binding and sewing it down, by hand, in one sitting, last night. Tha-rill!

Too embarrassed to lay it down on the John Lennon memorial mosaic in Central Park-- where I first saw rose petals on asphalt and thought, "Quilt!"--I did hang it in public, on a nearby pergola, tourists be damned. I live here, people! I need a place to photograph my FOs!

Because I know some quilters will be curious, here are full views of the front and back. I got the fabric at Modern Craft.

I'm very pleased with myself. I guess I'm a reluctant memory quilter.


Posted by Kay at 04:59 PM | Comments (105)

March 16, 2009

Confessions of an Etsyholic


Dear Ann,

Something interesting happened to me recently. Etsy.com asked me to host a "live shop" event this Thursday evening, March 18, at 7 p.m.. So I am going to the Etsy Labs in Brooklyn, and I am going to "live shop" myself silly.

Now. Mind you. I have no idea how this works. I'm just showing up. I think it's a virtual show, in a chat room. The Etsy kids, using magical Etsy powers involving computers, will show things that I've discovered and loved in my rambles around Etsy.com (famous last words: "Just looking!"), and I will blab, either virtually or actually, about My Etsy Proclivities and why I like stuff, and stuff like that. I'm envisioning some kind of handmade version of the Home Shopping Network, without all that business about "ONLY 7500 UNITS LEFT! CALL NOW! DON'T MAKE US BRING OUT THE BEDAZZLERS!"

I promise you there will be no cubic zirconium. I can promise you little else, but I can promise you that.

Looking around Etsy, I've been overwhelmed by how much great stuff people make, and in such a variety of media. I'm afraid that my lackadaisical browsing (which is how I shop in Real Life) is going to lead me down blind alleys and cause me to miss Really Essential Great Stuff. So, I would like to invite any reader who knows of fantastic Etsy shops, or specific items, to please leave me a comment with a link to what you want to show me.

I'll then go shopping (again!) (still!) and add anything that strikes my fancy to my list for Thursday night. (I'm hoping that the comments themselves will be a great self-guided tour of Etsy marvels.)

It is only fair to disclose that my taste runs quite passionately to owls.

(For example, this utterly irresistible fellow, a notebook cover which hits my trifecta (owl + linen+ text-on-textile), can be found here. Purely FYI! Nobody is making you click that link!)

(The owl up top is a studio confidante aka pincushion that a friend made. He is not for sale. He is just there as proof of owl love.)

Thank you, Etsy shoppers!


Posted by Kay at 07:59 PM | Comments (87)

March 12, 2009

The Wrestler

Dear Kay,

At this point, this Rowan Pearl sweater has turned into something akin to backyard wrestling. I'm totally punch drunk, just adding flaps of stuff wherever the pattern tells me to, whacking the thing with a folding chair. I'm in the twelfth round with this sweater. At any moment, I'm getting out the staple gun and the barbed wire.

For those keeping track, the collar took a whole ball of Rowan Wool Cotton, once I started cranking the reverse stockinette lining on size 2s. There's, like, a sock's worth of stitches in there. It's knitting that only I will ever know is there. Once it's folded down inside and stitched into place, it'll just be some extra secret bonus knitting that gives maximum Elvis verticality to the collar. And I am not persuaded at this point that this collar is going to be my kind of thing. But now that it's integrally built into this sweater, I will have a nice long time to get used to it.


I did a knitter's veto on the button bands. Kim Hargreaves suggested that I work two 7-stitch-wide button bands, to be stitched into place slightly stretched, which is a direction that you and I have discussed so often it's right up there with the sound-of-one-hand-clapping philosophical debate. Never having figured out how much stretching is the right amount, I diverted to the method that has been working for me recently: picking up stitches along the edge and knitting the band out from the edge. This works so well that I want to write Kim Hargreaves and plead with her to cease and desist from this slight-stretching school of button bands. Whipstitching a seven-stitch wide band into place, slightly stretched, is no picnic.


This all means that I have officially finished the knitting portion of Pearl. Seaming, sleeve setting, and buttons are all that remain.


I have an ooky feeling about how all those ribs are going to align or not when I stitch this thing up.


Posted by Ann at 11:32 AM | Comments (52)

March 10, 2009

Mary Sue and the Superpurply Lenten Frontal


Dear Kay,

One of my favorite knitters in the whole wide world is Mary Sue Taylor (Ravelry link). I mean: she is a dynamo. She has that full-steam-ahead approach to knitting that I totally admire. She doesn't mind projects that you measure by the square foot. Portability is not an issue for her: I have seen her cheerfully toting around a Jojoland bedspread as her car knitting. She did some great test knitting for our book--the Kiki Mariko rug on the opening spread is her handiwork, and she cranked the Belinda shawl in chocolate and light blue. A beautiful, beautiful knitter. And even more beautiful a person.

I met Mary Sue at church, where she is mightily involved in many projects. Her most recent Episcopal-related Finished Object really took me by surprise when I walked into the service for Ash Wednesday. (Heartily recommended, Ash Wednesday--I cannot be reminded too often that I am dust and to dust I shall return. Sometimes I start to think, "I may not be dust." This is not a good line of thinking.)

Mary Sue had indicated to me that she and her crafty husband Mark were working like nutcases on this project, and when I saw it, I understood why:


It's a knitted, felted, hemmed Lenten frontal. (A frontal is pretty much an elaborate tablecloth for an altar. You swap 'em out by season, sort of the way your grandmother puts out the Christmas finger towels in December.)

On the front, it's Kiki Mariko. On the back, it's stripes.


The church sanctuary is gothic and dark--not gloomy, but it does tend to devour colors. The photo up at the very top is a bit brighter than the actual piece, but not much. I was amazed at how well Mary Sue figured out which shades of Cascade 220 would read properly in such dim surroundings.

Being Supportive

Now. Mary Sue is working hard to raise money for the Michael J. Fox Foundation, an organization raising funds for Parkinson's research. If you have a minute, please visit her over at Team Fox and make a contribution if you can. You guys have to meet Mary Sue. She's the real deal.



Meanwhile. It feels like the end of an era, or the end of life as I knew it. I finished the sleeves for the Rowan Pearl sweater. I'm feeling like I pretty much don't need to do any more slanting ribbed sleeves for a good long while. Like: ever.

While they're drying in the Blocking Chamber aka under my bed, I have moved on to the assembly portion of this program.


The collar has the potential to go all baroque Elvis on me--it's 8cm high, with a reverse stockinette lining. I may end up bedazzling a rhinestone eagle on the back of this thing before I'm done. Such a relief and pleasure to be doing something other than slowly increasing slanting ribs.


(For those following the pin-sabotaging cat saga: the cat is happy to sit on the bedsheet covering the blocking board. He just likes the whole idea of blocking. Just likes to be in the mix.)


Posted by Ann at 01:55 PM | Comments (37)

March 06, 2009

Superhero Movie


Dear Kay,

Finally! A movie I can sit through!

Here's a little quick weekend viewing for you: my beloved bruvver Clif Meador, talking about his work as an artist and professor. Clif makes books: haunting, provocative books that I find very beautiful.

This film was made by Ian Issit, a filmmaker who is semi-practickly fambly. I really love how it turned out.

Clif's website provides many links to his books, some of which you can buy online. I have always admired the way he believes art should be accessible to many, and reasonably priced.

For those in the knitting world, Clif may be better known as Spouse of Mary Neal Who Designs Cool Sweaters. I like imagining them sitting around on their big green sofa, all brainylike up there in Chicago.


PS Clif creates things like this: Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech with all the words removed.

Posted by Ann at 03:34 PM | Comments (18)

March 04, 2009

Pith and Vinegar


Dear Ann,

Readers want to know eggzackly how I made my two shawls, which were inspired by Terhi's one shawl, which was an adaptation of a traditional triangle shawl that she found in Cheryl Oberle's book Folk Shawls. Here's as pithy as I can get:

Long-Tailed Triangle Shawl

Knit Cheryl Oberle's Feather & Fan Triangle Shawl, minus eyelet rows, up to the point that the feather & fan edging starts; at this point you will part company with the instructions. End with a RS row. On the next row, change to ruffle color and purl across the (WS) row. Instead of the feather and fan edging, work a soft ruffle, like so: On the next row (RS), (k1, kfb) all the way across the row. Now work 18 garter ridges, continuing to increase at the beginning and end of each row, and continuing the center increases on RS rows only. (For the ruffle, I changed the center increases to "make 1 right, k1, make 1 left.")

Tail-Free Triangle Shawl

Start with the basic top-down triangle shape specified for Cheryl Oberle's Wool Peddler Shawl, but work the 2 additional increase rows called for in the Feather & Fan Triangle Shawl. When the base triangle is complete, substitute the soft garter ruffle (described above) for the lacy edging of the Wool Peddler.

Gentle Reminder, aka The Sermon on the Block


Unlike some people (ahem), I am not a particularly avid blocker of my knits. I block as I see fit, which is sometimes kind of slapdash. Garter stitch can beguile me into thinking it needs no blocking; it is so very well behaved just as it comes off the needles. I usually wash things when they're done, not so much to block them as to cleanse away any cooties they have picked up being dragged around on the subway.

This....unbelief, this skepticism about the Power of Blocking.... is very wrong of me. Thinking I was wasting my time with a superfluous ritual, I handwashed and then machine spun the brown Koigu shawl yesterday, laid it out tidily on the bed to dry for a few hours, and was amazed. It grew a lot, due to the properties of wool, I guess: it bloomed, softened, tidied up, and,especially, GOT BIGGER. Much bigger. It went from 70 inches across the wingspan to 90 inches; it now practically has tails and it actually fits ME, who is quite a bit girthier than the recipient (who now will be the proud owner of a luxuriously oversized shawl; that is my story and I'm sticking to it: I meant for it to be this way).

One thing that might be seen as a negative is that the ruffle flattened out in the process, probably due to way I smooshed it out on the bed. To me, this is the desired look. If you want your ruffle to ruffle more convincingly, you'd have to knit a lot more stitches, by KFBing into every stitch on the first row, instead of every other stitch.


OK, that is all. Block, is all I'm saying. Even a wishy-washy, no-pins, cat-safe block can make your knitting all purty-like.


P.S. I would like to thank Central Park for allowing me to sustain the fantasy of my serenely clutter-free apartment. The ultimate crop of life's detritus: take the pictures somewhere else.

Posted by Kay at 10:22 AM | Comments (40)

March 03, 2009

The Many Moods of Brown Shawls


Dear Ann,

Even for me, knitting two garter stitch shawls one after the other, both brown, is a little worrisome. What makes a person do that?

I don't know. It was fun? That's a good enough reason, really.

The funny thing is, many thousands of mostly brown stitches later, it would not take much to get me to cast on another one. Apparently my fondness for multiples extends beyond dishcloths and miters.

In a these times of general world wobbliness, there is no safer place to park your cashmere and/or Koigu and/or whatever you've got stashed, than a lovely triangle shawl with softly undulating ruffle. In effect knit on the bias, it flatters everyone who tries it on, regardless of size, shape or age. It goes with everything, from PJs to high heels. It doubles as a blanket for the sofa, so you don't even need to find closet space for it. It's not going to go out of style. Why doesn't every knitter have one? Why don't I have one? Must rectify! We have the technology!

Brown Shawl Facts

For giggles, here is what the long-tail shawl (Brown Shawl the First) looks like laid out flat.

Holy KFBs, Batman! It's heart-shaped, and somehow disturbingly so. The tails measure 120 inches from wingtip to wingtip. Not for the faint of heart. Not for a person who feels that 900 stitches is too many for a row.

The length from the back of the neck to the bottom point of the ruffle is 39 inches.

Brown Shawl the Second

My second brown shawl, seen here lying on top of the first one, is for a smaller recipient, so I didn't want the long tails. I started with the inner triangle of Cheryl Oberle's Wool Peddler shawl in her book Folk Shawls, but tweaked it with some early increase rows to widen the top of the shawl so that it will rest more securely on the shoulders. (The soft garter ruffle is not in the original shawl; it is Terhi's brilliant stroke of simplicity.)

My pal Danielle is taller than the recipient but otherwise about the same size. As you can see, in the front it looks almost identical to the long-tail version.

In the back, it's a different story, with no long tails. In springy Koigu, this one feels very "huggy"; it truly swaddles the shoulders. It's 70 inches from tip to tip across the top, and 34 inches from the back of the neck to the bottom tip of the ruffle. I used US 5 needles.

These photos were taken before blocking. The shawl is soaking right now, and I'm expecting it to grow a couple of inches in all directions when I block it. [UPDATE: Boy, did it ever grow when I washed it! The length down the back from neck to ruffle point is 37 inches; from wingtip to wingtip it is 90 inches. Wha? How did that happen? Anyway, more shawl to love!]

That's all I've got. Casting on some Rowan Denim this afternoon, though, for a secret sweater to be revealed in late spring. Do I dare to purl?


Posted by Kay at 02:16 PM | Comments (35)

March 02, 2009



Dear Kay,

Hope you're surviving the BLIZZARD OF THE CENTURY or whatever it is the Weather Channel guy keeps trying to convince us about. We had our own shocking snow event here the other night: the almost-an-inch has us shut us down to the point that we're living off our leftover 9/11 supplies--I mean, Progresso soups NEVER EXPIRE, do they?

Clif managed to go snow skating even when there wasn't technically any snow left to skate.

Cat and Pin Update


I know that you will be relieved to know that after getting all those kind-hearted, cat-lovin' pin-ingestin' warnings, I threw a leftover toga (Mythology Theater was Thursday morning for the third graders) over my blocking, which of course led the cats to be more interested in it than ever.

I, on the other hand, am at such an abject moment, a third of the way through the final sleeve of this cursed Pearl, that I may just ditch the leaning cables altogether and go stockinette, or God help me, garter stitch. I can't recall a time I've been so thoroughly ready to MOVE ON.NOW.


See? The left-leaning cables still look warbly, no matter how carefully I do this and that. The right leaners continue to behave perfectly. This soul-suckin' sleevefest has led me to watch almost an entire season of America's Next Top Model, from a year so distant that the winner has probably already become America's Previous Top Model. I've also knitted through last season's Real Housewives of Orange County, a show that's hard to watch because all the women look eggzackly the same, and which gives me the chance to sit in on conversations such as "When Did You Have Your Breast Implants Done and Is Seventeen Too Young?" I don't get enough chance to chime in on discussions like that, here in Nashville. I did, however, see a woman on a slant board at the Y last week who defied gravity in such a spectacular way that I felt like I ought to compliment her. I mean, her parts were so very vertical at a moment when most women are sort of horizontal. Way to go, lady!

Oh, and I managed to see the first episode of Running in Heels, which I instantly Tivoed because it's The Devil Wore Prada come to life.

Very sorry to be telling you all this. Just terrible. The sooner I finish these sleeves, the sooner I can reclaim the higher moral ground. Or something, anything. Help meeeeeee!


Posted by Ann at 09:32 PM | Comments (33)
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